President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised the media for the critical role it played throughout the country's battle with COVID-19. Informing the nation about the unknown pandemic.
In his weekly newsletter on Monday, Ramaphosa said the nation owes gratitude to hardworking journalists.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to South Africa’s hardworking and tenacious journalists. They have kept our people informed by disseminating key health messages about social distancing and hygiene,” he said.
Ramaphosa, who was last week hosted by the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef), said journalists did well under difficult conditions.
“They have done so under extremely trying conditions, often with limited resources. They have told the stories of the effects of lockdown on the lives of people and their businesses. They have been out in the villages, towns and cities, bringing stories of ordinary people and drawing national attention to problems being experienced in hospitals and clinics, prompting government action,” the President said.
He added that the media played a true watchdog role, earning people’s trust during a difficult time.
“Our media have also shone a light on excesses that perhaps would not have ordinarily come to light. They have fulfilled their watchdog role by unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration, sparking a massive national debate and leading to a number of high-profile investigations. Through this reporting, they have earned people’s trust,” the president said in the letter.
The country’s first citizen also added that the media is important to the health of a democratic society.
“Given the importance of the media to the health of our democracy, it is a great concern that like all other sectors of the economy, the coronavirus crisis has hit our media houses hard. Some publications lost as much as 60% of their income in the early days of the lockdown. A number of companies have had to implement salary cuts, reduce staff numbers or reduce hours worked. Regrettably, some publications have even been forced to close, among them some of South Africa’s most established and well-known magazine titles," said Ramaphosa.
He said the job losses that have resulted from the lockdown have exacerbated a crisis for media companies already facing challenges like loss of advertising revenues, falling circulation and market share being taken by mobile-first news and other technologies.
“These financial difficulties are being faced across the board, from online titles to traditional broadsheets to the public broadcaster.
We need more journalists, not less. That is why the loss of even a single journalist is not just a loss to the industry but to the country.”
The president called on the private sector to support the media through advertising.